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Microsemi develops FPGA-based network time-servers

Posted: 09 Feb 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Microsemi? FPGA? NTP server? network time protocol? atomic clock?

"What is an NTP Reflector?" I hear you cry. Well, I'm glad you asked, because this is where Microsemi's SmartFusion2 SoC FPGAs come into play.

The FPGAs accept all inbound NTP packets, analyse and authenticate them, and dispatch time-stamped NTP packets, all at full line speed. Any non-NTP traffic and/or malformed NTP packets are automatically dropped. The only things that get through to the CPU are any network port configuration messages.

But wait, there's more, because some deployments mandate the use of dedicated physical timing connections in addition to secure NTP server interfaces.


S650 option slots and optional timing I/O module (Source: Microsemi)

This sort of physical layer timing interface is required for all sorts of things, like processing sensor data from a missile firing to capturing sensor data for underwater oil and gas exploration.

Once again, these optional timing modules are based on SmartFusion2 SoC FPGAs, which allows them to support Microsemi's FlexPort technology. Until now, a variety of physical layer interface modules have been used for different applications; these include Time Code hardware, Sine Wave hardware, and Rate Gen. hardware.

FlexPort technology

Optional timing I/O modules feature FlexPort technology (Source: Microsemi)

Now, all of these legacy sub-systems can be replaced by Microsemi's optional timing I/O modules, which provide software-selectable signal input and output and an intuitive web-based user interface control, all of which eliminates the need for costly external distribution units, increases speed of deployment, and facilitates ease of operation, thereby saving both time and money.

I tell you, I didn't realise that Internet-centric time was so interesting. One thing I do know is that I'll be paying a lot more attention to this sort of thing in the future. Also, I'm wondering if my Cunning Chronograph would benefit from one of Microsemi's miniaturised atomic clocks (that would certainly give me some bragging rights with the other competitors in our Cunning Chronograph Competition).

Good grief; is that the time? I really must dash. I'll see you later.

- Max Maxfield
??EE Times

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